On the afternoon of Wednesday, April 27, the Twitter account of AFL NSW/ACT made the announcement that the women’s squad to take on South Australia on June 4 at Adelaide Oval had been decided.
Players, along with their families and friends, clicked on the link to find out who had been picked, and in a sense, who the coaches thought played well in the recent Sydney Swans- GWS Giants exhibition match.
|Kim Hemenway was a standout for the Swans in April’s exhibition match.
Image: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Eyes scrolled the page and heads nodded when names like Maddy Collier, Mai Nguyen and Nicola Barr were listed, but one expected name was unbelievably missing: America’s Kim Hemenway.
Flashback to the start of 2016. Sacramento’s Katie Klatt made her intentions clear: she’s going to Sydney in February to try out in the AFL’s National Female Talent Search and the news caught like wildfire throughout the USAFL.
Spurred on by Klatt’s decision, the Californian-based New York Magpie in Hemenway made a snap call, arranged time off work and declared she’s in, too.
The American pair stood out so much at the talent search that they were invited back to play in April’s exhibition match on the SCG, with Hemenway joining the Swans and Klatt the Giants.
As reported by Girls Play Footy’s Kristy Williams, Hemenway made history by kicking the most goals (three) by an American in an AFL sanctioned match – later passed by Mason Cox of the Collingwood Magpies.
Even AFL Queensland female high performance manager Craig Starcevich was in full praise of the Swans forward during his commentary role that day.
Just three weeks later when the NSW/ACT squad was declared, the American, like many of her supporters and women’s footy fans in general, were left scratching their heads at her omission.
“In terms of why I didn’t get picked, no, I was never really told,” Hemenway explained.
“They were just kinda like, you didn’t get picked, sorry.
“Some of the feedback I got [post-game] was that they want to see me play more midfield, or maybe height-wise they don’t think I’m tall enough to play where I was playing during the game.”
One only needs reminding that there have been many footballers written off by some coaches in the past as being either too slow, too short, too skinny or some other so-called ‘defect’, that would go on to another club and have a long and successful career.
A ‘slow’ Greg Williams won two Brownlow Medals, is an AFL Hall of Fame inductee and was named in the AFL Team of the Century, for example.
Hemenway, like many of her fellow USAFL female footballers, along with hopefuls from Canada, England and Ireland, now waits wanting to know what the next step is for internationals dreaming of a spot in next year’s national women’s competition.
“With the visa thing and going back and forth, I think at this point it’s almost better for me to do what I can over here [in the USA] to get drafted or get picked for the September [women’s exhibition] game … and maybe go over there for the season next year,” Hemenway said.
“Luckily I have a job that’s very flexible; I pick my own shifts, I pick how much time I take off, I don’t really have vacation days, I just say hey I’m not going to work.
“That’s what I focusing on right now, trying to think what I can do from America to prove that I should be at least a consideration for next year.”
What is known so far is that the eight AFL clubs who will field a women’s side in 2017 have been asked to submit a ‘wish list’ of five marquee players each by June 30.
In September, players who have not been signed as one of the 16 marquees will be invited to nominate for the women’s draft and must declare their preferred state.
That draft then takes place on October 10, with clubs to draft 20 players each, meaning 22 of the 25 spots on their list will have been filled.
Although that draft comes at an awkward time for the North Americans, just five days before the USAFL Nationals where many would be hoping to impress, there is still a slight glimmer of hope for them.
The three remaining spots of each club’s list has been left for ‘free agents’, with the AFL having in mind ex-players that might be returning to the sport and athletes crossing over to Aussie rules. Alternatively, the the door is also open for internationals deemed up to the standard.
Hemenway says the league would be crazy to ignore the emerging female footy talent coming from outside the land down under.
“As time goes on, the AFL will see there are plenty of athletes and plenty of great footy players outside of Australia, and they should be considered on how high the level is getting overseas and not just in Australia,:
As a foot note to this story, Sacramento’s Katie Klatt has secured a visa and is relocating to Melbourne for a year from July. Reports are she will be playing for the Melbourne University Mugars in the VFL Women’s competition.